Author Archives: Leah

Leptodactylous Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting an aye-aye playing the piano amid tropical foliage

Today’s word is almost as long as an aye-aye’s fingers. I’m not sure you could describe it as slender though. (Are there slender words? That’s a topic worth pondering.)

In any case, aye-aye fingers are long, slender, & dextrous, & the lemur relatives’ impressive hand spans would probably give them quite an advantage at the keyboard, though most piano teachers would suggest a shorter manicure. More importantly, they are natural percussionists, with highly sensitive touch & hearing. So it is only slightly insane to imagine them tickling the ivory.

Prints of this painting, along with the original while it lasts, are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Ursiform Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting a teddy bear, a honey bear, gummi bears, & Ursa Major & Minor

Today’s word, ursiform, immediately conjured the vision of a teddy bear, along with the constellations Ursa Major & Ursa Minor. The honey bear & gummis invited themselves to the party much later on in the sketching process, whispering sweet nothings into my subconscious mind until I painted them in. I think in the end the teddy was happy to have more ursiform friends around!

Prints of this image (along with the original painting while it lasts) are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Has it really been a year?Yeanling, Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss of lambs & baby goats

Why yes, it has. And quite a year at that!

2020 has been strange, difficult, terrifying, at times surprisingly delightful, but above all, unpredictable. That makes me all the more grateful for one favorite tradition that has remained unchanged: my annual week of illustrations for A.Word.A.Day! Many, many thanks to Anu for inviting me into his wonderful world of words once again.

Our first word for the week is Yeanling, which of course brings to mind cute, frisky baby goats & lambs, springtime, & a freshly blossoming… pandemic!? Coincidentally the background text included definitions for “year,” so I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit to reflect this particular year. I had thought it would be fun to hide a few Easter eggs in the background, along with other youthful fauna of various species, but as I sketched, those too began to get a little weird!

Prints of this very odd painting (& the original while it lasts) can be found in my Etsy shop, CuriousArtLab.

I hope you all have found reasons to smile & ways to romp around a bit in 2020, despite its many challenges. I hope 2021 brings many more smiles & fewer struggles!

Hyaloid Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

The last of this week’s words, hyaloid, sent me into a nostalgic reverie of my father’s chemistry lab at Duke University, which I remember from my childhood as a magical place full of mysterious vessels & devices, as well as odd smells & occasionally odd people. I found it fascinating, but also a bit frightening, possibly because I was often warned to be careful.

I felt as timid & curious as the little lab rat in this painting, gazing glassy-eyed at the experiments in progress in this decidedly non-academic laboratory. My father’s lab definitely did not feature alchemical symbols among the molecular models, but there were crystals & microscopes and all manner of wonders that inspired my imagination. And although I never followed in his scientific footsteps, it’s no accident that I named my Etsy shop Curious Art Lab.

So thank you, Dad. And to thank those of you who have followed this week of A.Word.A.Day illustrations, I’ve created a special coupon code: AWAD2019 will offer you 20% off of any order of $100 or more, through 13 December 2019. That way you can get all 5 of this week’s prints for the price of 4, but of course you can choose anything else you want from my shop. I love the people I meet through A.Word.A.Day, & I’ll be forever grateful to Anu for inviting me to wander around in his logo-laboratory!

Worricow Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, Worricow: A prickly green monster rising from the swamp

When Anu sent me worricow, I believe I may have shrieked with delight. I’d never encountered the word until that moment, but it’s just the sort of quirky discovery that makes me an insatiably curious logophile. And what could be more fun than inventing new monsters? (Though I tend to prefer the sort that are odd rather than terrifying.)

This painting & prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Jouissance Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Despite being a cat person by nature, when I think pure, unadulterated jouissance, I think dog! So I sketched a doggie dancing on the beach… which made me think of champagne… & it wasn’t until I started drawing the label on the bottle in the sand that I thought of Terrier Jouet. (Though I suspect my subconscious/muse was rolling its eyes the whole time, patiently waiting for my pencil to catch up.) Admittedly, the tail is a bit long for a terrier… but all the better to wag through the waves & form a jolly letter “J!”

This painting is SOLD but prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Inquiline Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting a kitten in a bird's nest

Today’s word for A.Word.A.Day is “Inquiline.” The word was new to me, though I did know about cuckoos laying eggs in other birds’ nests (thus the derivation of “cuckold”). My first few sketches went in that direction, but then a cat jumped into the picture, & I was helpless to resist. I like to think this kitty just likes to hang out with the chicks & eat worms… but still, if I were Mama Bird I don’t think I’d appreciate it much.

This painting & prints (which may be customized with a message of your choice) are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Bright New Words!Fulgor, Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting a glowing phoenix rising from the ashes

It’s time once again for my yearly illustrations for A.Word.A.Day! As usual, Anu offered me a wonderfully inspiring selection of words, beginning this time with Fulgor.

As soon as I began sketching, a bird appeared on the paper, & it quickly became a phoenix. rising from the ashes. The banner it is holding reads “Fulgor ex favilla” (Splendor from the ashes, inspired by “Resurget ex favilla” from the Lacrimosa.)

This painting is SOLD but prints (which may be customized with a message of your choice) are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Year of the Pig/Latin Acrylic Painting on Text on Birch Panels, 10" x 5" Diptych

Pig Latin, acrylic on panel by Leah Palmer Preiss, depicting a flying pig ascending into the heavens above frying bacon

I always enjoy creating paintings inspired by the Chinese Zodiac.  This year is the year of the pig, & as I’m quite fond of pigs (particularly piglets) I was excited about this one. It ended up being more than a little late for the Lunar New Year, but maybe that’s because I found myself doing two paintings in one!

Pig/Latin started out with a sketch of a flying pig, inspired of course by the familiar figure of speech. But a pig with angelic wings, ascending blissfully to the heavens, reminded me of the uncomfortable fact that an awful lot of pigs die for our gustatory pleasure. Now, I can’t deny that bacon is delicious (even to me, a somewhat reluctant omnivore after many years as a vegetarian). But pigs themselves are so lively & clever, it just seems strange that most people think of them only as a food source. 

Because I feel so torn about this issue, it occurred to me to create a diptych. In the top panel, I painted the glorified flying pig. I was delighted to find an eloquent discussion of hog intelligence in one of my volumes of Animate Creation, 1898, which I used as the background text of the painting, along with a faint overlay of a Gustave Dore engraving. (If you’d like to see a brief video of pig-painting in process, please check it out on my Instagram page.) 

In the lower, terrestrial panel, there is the tempting & tasty bacon. In the memento mori tradition, I also included a rather porky medieval-style banner reading “Sic transit gloria porci” –Latin for “Thus passes the glory of the pig.” (Of course, this is a variant of “Sic transit gloria mundi.”) And in the frying pan, there are instructions for cooking bacon, scanned from an antique cookbook.

I used birch wood cradled panels as a support for this one instead of my usual stretched canvas, so that the two paintings could be stacked on a shelf without wobbling, but they can also be displayed singly if you prefer your bacon sans angel or vice-versa. 

The “frame” is trompe-l’oeil– I scanned a real frame, printed it faintly onto the archival paper that I use for the text, then painted it in red oxide with accents of metallic gold, shaded to accentuate the carving. The sides of the panel are painted to blend with the faux frame, as you can see in the right side of the photo above.

The painting(s) & prints are now available in my Etsy shop.